You do not need much hockey acumen to know that three goalie systems do not work. You just need to be a recent Isles fan to recall that it was not that long ago that a subpar DiPietro, a backup playoff caliber Dwayne Roloson, and a rusty and off scheduled Marty Biron who was relegated to a press box.
Goalies aren’t wind-up toys, who just need to be wound and placed on the ice on a whim. They are mercurial and eccentric people who have rituals and habits to somehow get the desire and focus to have rubber pucks slapped at them at high velocity.
The addition of DiPietro, who had nary his own schedule to get up to NHL speed, just his own competitive all-be-damned edge and his friendship with Charles Wang to ride right into goal, threw the Isles goal minding into a tizzy. The team, much less the goaltenders, never recovered. That trade deadline Garth actually considered dealing both Biron and Roloson, knowing a vet could be had later that summer to be backup to their 15-year albatross. Nobody bit on Biron, and even Roloson would not get near the Isles barometer of value.
Other teams can tell you other horror tales of three goalies. There is just no schedule to it. No working around it. Invariably, someone sits or has their knee blow up like a kid’s balloon to be perhaps shaped into a dog or a hat until next season.
In fact, the 15-year deal of Rick DiPietro has become one of the worst thought out contracts in all-professional sports. What has become clear, whether you root for the guy or just want him to get punched in the face by Mike Tyson, is that he has finally has the potential to be a disruption to the equilibrium, general health, and the future of the Isles rebuild starting this season.
Sorry, just no getting around this anymore. No more dancing around the subject.
Neil Smith knew it was a bad idea. Not that he was acting like any hero as he and the internal staff had a virtual war go on during his brief tenure. However one of his final acts was an attempt to countermand Charles Wang’s desire to give The Rick a longterm insane deal by calling his agent to arrange a meeting to do a more reasonable 6-year term.
That was the final straw. Their battle then went underground into an under wraps NHL courtroom-like drama of testimony later on, as the Isles booted Neil, kept the system in place, and moved to Garth Snow. Charles then hammered out the deal that makes Isles fans moan in the night. The final moral to this story is fan; player and team beware of contracts outside the normal scope. Nobody can live up to it. Just ask Mike Richards and Philly.
So now here we are, another year, and Rick DiPietro even lower in Isles fans minds. His play last year, despite better health showed poorly on the stat charts. His numbers cannot be pinned on the substandard defense alone when Roloson could take that same and make him look like gold. Of course, his comment last season seemed to light a fire under fans where it was viewed that he dismissed any and all other goaltenders to actually pushing him, much less perhaps pushing him out. He was so obtuse to his reality and situation in that interview it seemed like a bit of a put-on.
Rick hates the press. Anyone who knows and has dealt with him knows this. Getting clarity or even a story on your own terms out of him is near impossible. Much has been made of his flip egocentric comment. With no sly wink or twinkle of the eye, we are left with the sad reality. He doesn’t “get it”. With his now opposite standpoint this summer via interviews, it is clear he’s talking the talk, but does he know the walk anymore?
Does Rick understand the hard truth that most fans are about ready to move on? Now or later, the writing is on the wall. He just knows he has a friend in Charles that gives him more leeway than commonsense would allow.
This all said, it is not like the isles were exactly thrown from they playoffs due to Rick’s trials and tribulations. The timing of Rick’s trouble was not grand, but it isn’t like it killed the Isles cup hopes. It wasn’t like Poulin must start or sit. He is better to develop at Bridgeport until it is clear where he need to be. It’s not like Kosikken was knocking at the door as he was scrambling to sew the holes in the back of the net.
Enter Al Montoya, who never got his shot in two places thanks to good prospects and scouting as the Rangers had Henrik and Phoenix has that other guy… Ummm… oops, nevermind… Bryzgalov is the Flyers goalie for the next 9 years or until they fail in a playoff round.
Montoya looks like one of those late bloomers. No huge top goalie projection anymore, but a solid steady guy who can do whatever needs to be done perhaps. Or until a wunderkind erupts, sending him packing or backing up for a third time. That’s NHL goaltending.
The problem is the Nabokov Situation, which is about as concerning as the Bonnie Situation in Pulp Fiction right now. Here is a guy who won 44 games in his last season in the NHL, despite tanking in the playoffs, which seemed to kill his realistic value when he and his agent overrated and overvalued him last year.
Here is also a guy with a track record, despite being “too good to play for the lowly Isles” last season when they pulled him off the waiver wire. Talk about your hang-ups. He has a playoff reaching (despite tanking) pedigree, who also is now in the mix for a mere song this season thank to the righteous and rightful tolling of his contract by the NHL. He will cost the Isles a mere $570,000. Hell, that’s less than Andy Hilbert.
As DP was able to stay relatively healthy last season, chances are he will do the same this summer and out the gate. The problem is that he is not even a shade of his former self. My belief is that level that the Isles need him to be and play is what will only send him to the IR again. This is a problem.
There is also the problem of The Rick’s head. Rick, who was the guest of an all-star game just once, likes to compare himself and his situation to that of Tom Brady. The only thing at DiPietro has in common with Tom Brady is his pay grade. The problem is that he is no such level. He is far more comparable to Drew Bledsoe…another top pick and face of the franchise of the New England Patriots who got swept out of the way.
The sooner all recognize this reality the better it will be for all.
The Isles PR department story is that this could be a triple threat. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a three-prong problem with no sure thing of a solution. What the Isles need to hope on is that someone here or elsewhere goes down like a Mangano Referendum vote. Only if a team comes looking for a Montoya or Nabokov, or DP has an orbital bone relapse courtesy another goaltender who tires of his still almost rookie-like on-ice behavior, will this come to some sort of temporary conclusion. Unless Montoya or Poulin becomes ready to take the reins and not let go will this begin to become clear-cut. That or DiPietro gets some sort of bionics.
Until then this potential mess will get Messier.
Triple threat indeed.
About the Author: B.D. Gallof is a published writer and hockey blogger. He writes about Hockey, NY Islanders & the NY Islanders venue situation for CBS New York. BD has been written up in Sports Illustrated, TSN.ca, the NY Times Slapshots blog, Yahoo's Sports and SportsBusiness Journal. He has been a featured blogger for The Huffington Post, as well as owner, lead writer, and managing editor at HockeyIndependent.com.